May 19, 2014

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Refugee Student Finds
Safe Haven, Fresh Start at HCC

BRIDGEPORT – When Housatonic Community College student Justine N’Gozan left the war-torn Ivory Coast two years ago, she was looking for a safe haven in which to start building her future. She found it at HCC.

When she graduated from high school in 2012, her country had been engaged in a 10-year civil war. The conflict had started in the northern part of the country, but, after three years, spread southward to Abidjan, the country’s business and cultural capital and N’Gozan’s home.

“When I graduated from high school,” she relates. “I wanted to go to college in Abidjan. But I couldn’t: They had all been destroyed.”

Abidjan had become a war zone. “I saw young people with weapons, walking the street looking for others to fight,” she said. “They were 17 or 18 years old. Some of them I knew from school.”

While she didn’t see any battles, she could hear them and see their aftermath. “We could hear the airplanes and the bombs at night,” she said. “They were so loud we couldn’t sleep. We could hear people screaming.”

As the conflict intensified, her parents decided it was time for the family to go. They moved to neighboring Ghana. From there, she joined her older sister in Bridgeport and chose Housatonic as the place to continue her education.

She’s glad she did. The accessibility and affordability were attractive, but what really impressed her is the college’s emphasis on student success. The college administration, faculty and staff all went out of their way to help her.

N’Gozan, a math/science major excelled in this environment. Her accomplishments include membership in Phi Theta Kappa; Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honor Society for Technology; and the National Society of Leadership and Success and, most important, acceptance at University of Texas in Arlington, where she will begin her studies in actuarial science in the Fall.

All in all, she said, “Housatonic was the best choice for me.”